The next four days will be filled with fun in the sun as most people spend a lot of time outdoors during Easter. But it’s important to avoid excessive sun exposure and remember to stay hydrated. In this week’s Healthy Living, Internist, Dr. Daniel Godinez, talks about the range of illnesses from mild to severe that excessive heat exposure and dehydration can cause.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Our bodies consist of approximately sixty to seventy percent of water; every system in your body depends on water. Each day our body as a part of its regular function uses to breathe, sweat and to get rid of waste products from our bodies. Living in hotter climates means that you lose even more fluid. Without sufficient water, our bodies become dehydrated. As Internist, Dr. Daniel Godinez, explains dehydration and excessive exposure heat can have severe effects on the body.

Dr. Daniel Godinez, Internist

Daniel Godinez

“Normally our bodies are able to produce heat that is due to the normal metabolism of that occurs every day in the body. But also our body is able to acquire heat from the environment. So if for any reason, there is an excessive production of heat in your body or the heat in the surrounding environment the body will overheat: like a car. One of the things that happen when you’ve been exposed to the sunlight for very long period of time is that your body tends to lose a lot of water by evaporation and also by sweating. So you can get dehydrated very easily without realizing it.”

Aside from the obvious sunburn, the water and salt depletion from the body has a range of effects: from the mild to the very serious. Dr Godinez explains them all starting with the least harmful heat swelling.

Dr. Daniel Godinez

“A person can get discomfort from having swelling in the feet and in the hands. This is called heat swelling and naturally this happen especially with those who are not use to the heat in places like Belize. For example visitors who come to these places after a few days of staying, they realize they are swollen their shoes don’t fit. That is called heat swelling.”

This minor complication usually remedies itself when the person returns back to his/her normal environment. Other minor complications include what we know as ‘prickle heat.’

Dr. Daniel Godinez

“The other minor thing is the heat rash which we know as prickle heat is very itchy and annoying which is just an inflammation of the sweat glands because of the heat. And the more serious things, such as the cramps that occur and it happen mainly in persons who exercise during the hottest hour of the day. And then we move to the famous syncope or fainting spells that happen due to heat. Very common in people who do physical education in the heat of the day or those in parades or things like that we see that a lot with the September celebrations. We had about ten to twelve students who fainted because of the parade or carnival. And finally we move to heat exhaustion which is a more serious condition; excessive sweating with fainting spells also, the person already needs to go to the hospital. Mainly those are manifestation of severe dehydration.”

From the point of fainting, medical attention is required. The most severe effect of excessive heat exposure and dehydration would be the heat stroke.

Dr. Daniel Godinez

“In these patients what we are seeing is not just dehydration but also a high temperature in your body the temperature can be as high one hundred and five or one hundred and six Fahrenheit, the patient is even unable to sweat at that point and finally the person may have neurologic changes such as confusion even coma or occasionally death. It is surprising but a lot of people actually die due to that thing. Last year in Europe there was an estimated fifty-two thousand people who died in Europe due to heat waves or heat stroke.”

Climatic changes have caused more severe and frequent heat waves globally. Also, we spend a lot more time exposed to the sun that we notice. This is why Dr Godinez advises that people take precaution when they know they will be overexposed to sunlight.

Dr. Daniel Godinez

“There are several things people can do: one; we should be using light loose fitting clothes especially those made out of cotton. We should avoid polyester type thing. It is also very important to prevent being exposed to sunlight for very long periods of time. If possible you should use some kind of hat or sombrero we call it in Spanish and make sure to get hydrated adequately. We advice the patient to rehydrate, not just water but electrolytes and potassium. If a person start feeling fainty, or for any reason cannot get enough fluids or start getting nausea vomiting or cramps. You should seek medical attention right away.”

Other actions to take in an emergency situation would be to move the person out of the sun into a cool area and cool them down with water or a cold bath. Remember that caffeine and alcohol also dehydrate the body so one must consider carefully beverage choices when in the sun. However, the most important message is to stay hydrated.

Dr. Daniel Godinez

“Well just enjoy the sun of the summer but don’t overdo it you are going to get dehydrated very fast and if you love the sun carry your hydrating solution so you can keep out of trouble.”

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